plus job sets to go in UNSW restructure 

researchers warn toxic herbal remedies unreported and require regulation 

and $125 million in new medical research grants

Love is all around

Aphrodite smiled through the loss of love and never stopped believing she would find romance again, if she could only remember where she had left her Mills and Boon stash.” Researchers at the University of Tasmania are asking us to take a photo of any Mills and Boon title by 50 Australian authors found around and about and report where. It’s for a study of what happens to them. Details here.

Heads to roll at UNSW

Getting the tumbrils out of storage took time but it seems that management at UNSW has finally started deciding on staff for the chop as part of VC Ian Jacob’s plan for the university “to be excellent in all we do”. Alarmed insiders report anywhere between 50 and 70 roles will go in Finance and people effected will start hearing their fate in a fortnight. IT and International, Marketing and Communications staff are also in the frame. “The next few months will be a period of uncertainty, causing anxiety for some. During this period, we mustn’t however lose sight of the fact that while some roles may evolve and other roles may no longer be required,” Professor Jacob emailed staff – which must cheer up those fearful for their futures under his ten-year plan.

A spokeswoman for the university tells CMM, “it is premature to talk about the number of staff affected ahead of the consultation process but any changes to staffing levels will be accompanied by open communication and consultation in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement. … Implementing a strategy of this scale involves substantial change. New roles will be created, providing new opportunities for staff, but some positions will no longer be required and some will evolve to meet new challenges.” 

Travaglione leaves Curtin

Curtin U is losing business school PVC Tony Travaglione who is moving to the University of Newcastle to become PVC for business and law. At Curtin he led the establishment of the school of law and the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.

Researchers demand safety tests for herbal medicine

People who assume herbal remedies are safe could be putting their health at risk, says University of Adelaide pathology professor Roger Byard and co-authors of an article to be published in the Medical Journal of Australia this morning.

The UniAdelaide, Murdoch and Curtin researchers say toxic side effects in herbal medicines have gone unreported, due to an absence of “systematic observation.” That people consume them without telling their doctor does not help.

They say the Therapeutic Goods Administration should test herbal preparations before they are placed on the market and ban products with illegal substances. According to co-author Ian Musgrave, from UniAdelaide; “any sensible way to overcome these issues will involve more effort: more testing, more documentation, and this will naturally incur more costs for industry. There will be a reluctance from industry to do this, but while they claim that for thousands of years they have been using herbal products without such tests, the potential risks to human health mean that there is due cause for reasonable, scientifically rigorous testing.”

CMM imagines the authors’ colleagues at the University of Adelaide’s Global Institute of Traditional Medicine will agree. The Institute, which is a partnership with three Chinese universities teaching traditional medicine, says remedies must be tested. “For a truly sustainable global market and widespread adoption in western countries, we need scientifically rigorous testing of the safety and efficacy, or not, of these medicines,” PVC research strategy Julie Owens said in December.

In an undoubted coincidence, on Friday Murdoch U announced a February 27  public lecture by biochemist Garth Maker on his analysis of herbal medicines which found 92 per cent of a sample “had some form of contamination or substitution.”

Simpson continues

Stephen Simpson has a second five-year term as academic director of the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre. Biologist Professor Simpson has led work at the centre since its 2012 foundation. He says the centre will continue work on precision medicine, nutrition, and models of integrated care for chronic disease and a new commercialisation and innovation system.

How much hard yakka

Last March the National Tertiary Education Union used the required four-year review of university employment awards to call on the Fair Work Commission to, among other things, state what constitutes reasonable working hours for academics and to require universities to make an effort to ensure that overtime worked by professional staff is codified, presumably so it was paid. After a year of taking evidence the Commission is now set to consider final arguments and CMM hears some of the union closing submissions were submitted Friday.

Timely timing, given enterprise bargaining is underway in Western Australia, to follow in universities around the country. But just how many working hours are involved? It’s a question the NTEU says managements can’t answer, for a reason. “By and large university employers either turn a blind eye to the working of long hours by academic staff or consider it of no consequence.”

The union also argues the days when academics were happy to be left alone to do as much work as they believe necessary are gone; “academic staff now have their work volume and much of their specific work determined at the behest and direction of their employer. Employer-imposed workload (working time) is arguably the equal greatest bone of contention in the industrial landscape of academics alongside job insecurity.”

Both the union and the employers’ Australian Higher Education Industrial Association will be interested indeed to see how the FWC responds.

$125m in new NHMRC grants

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced $125m in National Health and Medical Research Council  project grants on Saturday. Major awards are to Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre ($13.2m), QIMR Berghofer ($19.8m), Florey Institute ($13.1m), University of Sydney ($7m), Burnet Institute ($7m) and UWA ($1.3m)

CRCs want more women

The Cooperative Research Centres Association isn’t happy that the presence of women on its members’ boards has increased from 17 per cent in 2010 to  25 per cent last year, it’s still way too low. Association chief Tony Peacock says the board wants to see women in 50 per cent of director and senior management roles in five years. Anybody interested in the plan should contact Dr Peacock.

Edith Cowan research hire

Back in 2015 new Edith Cowan U VC Steve Chapman announced plan to expand research by appointing 20 professorial fellows (CMM August 12 2015). It took ECU a bare month to hire the first, Pere Masque, an expert in environmental radioactivity from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (knowing Perth through the adjunct chair he had at the University of Western Australia probably sped the process), (CMM September 18)  But the next nine took longer with Stephen Teo being announced on Friday. The HR researcher moves west from RMIT. Another appointment is expected next week.

A start for UTas

As part of its aggressive plan to get more Tasmanians into education the state’s university has launched associate degrees in applied business and agribusiness. They are designed for people who want to increase their skills or who want to sample study before committing to full degrees. Announcing the programme in September VC Peter Rathjen said associate degrees would address two Tasmanian problems; low skills leading to high unemployment and skill shortages, CMM September 30 2016).

Janelle Allison, principal of the UTas University College says they are being “strongly supported by industry and community.” There is funding for internships and scholarships and the first intake will meet the “modest” target of 100 students.

A marvellous gift

Alibaba entrepreneur Jack Ma has gifted A$26m for scholarships to the University of Newcastle. While a teenager Mr Ma established a formative friendship with the Novocastrian Morley family, which is honoured in the name of the fund, the Ma and Morley Scholarship Programme. This utterly extraordinary story is here. The university says scholarships will be awarded to students committed to cross-cultural understanding, social justice, ethics in entrepreneurship and sustainable development, with a focus on indigenous and disadvantaged applicants. First scholars will begin at UniNewcastle in 2018. At capacity the Ma and Morley Scholarship will support 90 students.

Basil Hetzel dead

Basil Hetzel died on the weekend. The medical researcher and some-time chancellor of the University of South Australia (1992-98)  made the connection between iodized salt and saving unborn children from brain damage. He did, says UniSA VC David LLoyd, “that one thing that all researchers strive to do – he made a truly significant impact on world health.”  A learned reader adds, “he was an amazing man – and incredibly kind to everyone.” Dr Hetzel was 95.

NCVER’s revealing survey

The estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research is  surveying all-comers to inform its 2017-19 strategic plan. Intriguing questions include whether or not the agency should just maintain stats or analyse and report on the state of VET and should the agency “pursue a research agenda and dissemination of research findings that reflect its status as an independent research organisation.” At which point CMM’s status sensitivity meter went to red. The survey also wants to know what readers think of its reports, asking among other things if their construction, structure and prose can lift.  And there are hints of ambitions to expand, with a question about NCVER managing data “for VET training products and consumer information.”

Old news

A learned reader points out the stalled price negotiations between journal publisher Elsevier and German universities and research institutions does not deny researchers access to back-issues.